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NEED TO KNOW

Freediving Psych

FREEDIVING PSYCH

Ant Williams, a competitive freediver, explains how spearo's can benefit from freedivie training techniques.

 

WILL FREEDIVE TRAINING IMPROVE MY SPEARFISHING ABILITY?

Yes. Most spearo’s find that building breath-hold ability increases their confidence for spearfishing and can enable them to hunt safely at greater depths. If you have been involved in regular spearfishing then you’ll probably find that you rely on a feeling of “discomfort” during your dives to signal when you should swim for the surface. Seasoned spearo’s who buddy well can benefit from structured freedive training to improve bottom times and provide the chance to explore breath-hold limits safely.
 

I'VE NOTICED THAT FREEDIVERS SEEM TO PREPARE FOR A WHILE BEFOR THEIR DIVES. HOW DO THE BEST GUYS BREATHE BEFORE A LONG BREATH-HOLD?


When it comes to those final minutes of preparation there is some real variability amongst top freedivers. In competition we work on a two minute countdown system so most divers base their final preparation around this timeframe. A common approach is to take long slow breaths for the first minute then a kind of “sighing” breath in the last minute.


 

Here are a few exercises which top freedivers practice over two minutes that you could try:

  • In the first minute, only take about 4 or 5 breaths.
     
  • Breathe in and out slowly through pursed lips (this creates back pressure on the lungs which apparently increases the oxygen saturation in the bronchioles).
     
  • Ensure you are in a neutral body position where it requires almost no physical effort to maintain your position or posture.
     
  • Stare at a point in front of you or close your eyes. If your focus of attention changes, so will your heart rate.
     
  • During the second minute, try a series of sighing breaths. As you inhale, bring the tension up to your shoulders and allow them to rise slightly. As you exhale, become progressively more relaxed and release the tension around your shoulders and neck. Once you have released the air then pause for 2 or 3 seconds on empty lungs.
     
  • Make your last breath in is a monster, by taking in the air slowly and shifting your body position to allow for more air to fill your lungs. The final breath in should take between 10 and 15 seconds to complete.
     

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IN THE POOL, WHAT SHOULD I THING ABOUT WHILE I,M HOLDING MY BREATH?


If you are going for a long static breath-hold (a breath-hold where you rest face down in the water) then the answer depends on which stage of the breath-hold you are in.
 

1 TO 2 MINUTES

During the first part of a breath-hold your focus should be on relaxation. Consciously scan your body for any tension then try to release it. It can help to name the body part and tell it to relax.

 

2 TO 4 MINUTES

After 2 minutes you should be super relaxed and in the groove. Here my goal is to switch off my brain and not think about anything. The state you are trying to achieve is called ’mindfulness.’ It is a state where thoughts can come in to your head but you don’t attach anything to them, instead you stay completely present in the current experience. A state of mindfulness can be incredibly hard to achieve. It takes time and a lot of practice, but you can get there and it will help your breath-hold times. For mindfulness practice out of the water, try some meditation or yoga.
 

4 TO 5 MINUTES

Most divers experience a bloodshift around this time. It is your body and mind’s way of dealing with the rapid decline in oxygen. Going through bloodshift can be very uncomfortable for some athletes. I recommend coaching yourself through this each time by repeating a simple phrase such as “let go.”
 

5 TO 8 MINUTES

After 5 minutes the crucial thing is to switch your mind back on. This part of the breath-hold is often uncomfortable and if you have dealt with earlier discomfort by ’switching off’ then now is the time to become more alert. Failure to do so shortens breath-hold time and can result in a blackout. An easy way to switch back on is to open your eyes and shift your gaze around the pool tiles - become aware of noise around you and listen for your heart beat.

 
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